Exploring Puerto Rico – A Language Immersion Trip

Saachi Singh
Written by Saachi Singh, Class of 2020

Baldwin is a school that offers so many opportunities to its students, and I am happy to say that I experienced one of the best. The Middle School Spanish class trip to Puerto Rico was a once in a lifetime experience that opened all of our eyes to many wonderful and different things. In addition to giving me the best three days of my life, this trip also pushed me to bond with some of my classmates I hadn’t been close with before, including girls in different grades. We were all so excited and ready, from the moment we met each other at 5:30 a.m. in the airport, barely awake.

Even though it is extremely difficult to choose, one of my favorite activities was the bioluminescent bay in La Parguera, the small fishing village. It was definitely a popular favorite for most of us. It was the perfect example of an interactive learning experience. We learned all about the behavior and facts about dinoflagellates in the water and why they were in this special area in Puerto Rico, and then we got to dive in and see how they made the water light up! It was very exciting and beautiful, and an experience that I will never forget.

IMG_0132The teachers and guides worked extremely hard to prepare an organized and fun-filled itinerary, including trips to the beach, hikes through the rainforest, salsa lessons, sightseeing, shopping, scavenger hunts, watching a folkloric dance show, banana boating and much more. I tried things that I never thought I would ever be able to do (like putting a baby octopus on my head!), and I learned a lot about beautiful Puerto Rico and its rich history and culture. I got to enjoy the sunny weather and eat the absolutely most delicious foods (which I crave daily)!

Thinking about it now, the trip went by in the blink of an eye and I am so sad that it is over, but we all took it in and enjoyed it so much. I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone and everyone who has the opportunity, because this is an amazing chance to explore a new place and to experience an authentic language and cultural experience!

Inspirational STEAM: Artists are Innovators

Aileen McCulloch, Middle School Drama Teacher

Aileen McCulloughI am a producer, actor, painter, poet and educational theater director who, for the last two decades has worked primarily with students (aged 5 to adult) to teach theater skills as not just an artistic form, but as a way of living life. As we strive to give college bound children more of the contemporary skills that they need to meet the demands of continued study followed by “real life,” I am frequently confronted with questions that force me to argue the value of my field, and all of the other arts as well. Why should students be asked to focus on the arts in school, over expanding their STEM skills? I spend much of my time researching so that I can give the best answers to explain the value of the performing arts for students in K-12 study.

To me, it seems obvious. The arts are invaluable! Painting, drawing, acting, singing, dancing – they teach us technique, yes, but more importantly, they teach us that creativity involves thinking beyond technique. Where the other skills tend to be seated activities, the arts get us up and moving. They teach us to look inward, to explore our own character, and then to expand our views to explore the character of those around us. They show us that 24 eyes can look at one pot of flowers, and 12 different creative expressions can come out of the viewing – with every expression being inspirational and RIGHT. In short, the arts teach us to physically seek the strongest choice for this moment, rather than that there is only one “correct” choice to be made.

I was lucky. I never had one year of schooling pass where I wasn’t heavily exposed to the fine and performing arts. My high school produced a show for every grade and a musical that combined the grades. We had a choir, a show choir, and a battle of the bands. We had not just an art room but we also had an art wing. Since I left school, I rarely have had a day pass where I am not involved in creating something new and exciting with creative collaborators. So I can understand why many people who have not been so exposed might not understand the power of pushing children out of the box, and into the wild creative frontier of the open mind through long time and consistent exposure to the arts.

I was inspired recently by several articles on the importance of the arts in education.  Need a Job? Invent it! by Thomas L. Friedman and Probing Question: Is art an essential school subject? by Melissa Beattie-Moss. These are not the first articles about the importance of sharing the arts with students, but they were two that brought not just test scores to the argument, or personal experiences, but observations from the work force. I think the fact that bosses are seeing the difference in their employees based on the worker’s past experience in the arts is really eye opening for all educators! We need more arts, not less! Every child needs to learn how to color outside the lines and dance based on the music in their hearts.

The articles give a real world face to the fact that the humanities are not just fluff that students take to break up their day of required academics. Ironically, it is just the opposite. Fine and performing arts expand the brain’s ability to absorb and creatively work with given “facts” in a way that most academic subjects do not. They teach that there are many ways to see the same object, the same situation. The arts add power to technological STEM, so that our children can STEAM into uncharted waters. In essence, the arts teach us how to think, while many of our other studies teach us what to think. Guess what? That “what” changes through the decades, and the “how” allows us to embrace that change!

I am a strong proponent of playing in the classroom. For several years I ran Young Audiences of Eastern PA, an organization that brought artists into classes to teach everything from creative thinking to required topics through new and innovative ways, while offering performances as well. These articles points out that as we consider training our children for college, we need to keep our eye on what really matters – we need to train creators. The first article, Need a Job? Invent it!, is the most succinct argument for that approach that I’ve ever seen.

This last year I have asked every girl who enters my classroom to create an original work with the promise that there is “no wrong and right, only creating the strongest work you can.” My goal has been to teach them how to create through their own original thought, both individually and in teams. I have given them tools, but then pointed out that there are numerous different ways to use those tools. I have reminded them that their voice is essential to the creation of our projects!

I then have them journal to tell me what each of their original experiences taught them. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at some of the lessons learned that I had no idea were also in the plan. They literally played themselves to a higher level of critical thought. I’m really thrilled by that and wanted to share my inspiration.

The goal of every theater artist I know is to do the best work possible and to explore many different approaches. There isn’t just ONE way to do anything. Actors know this. Inventors know this. Lawyers know this. Much of the time we are teaching just the opposite! Here’s to moving past STEM, and giving our children the STEAM they need to make a better world in the future.

And for a never-ending stream of STEAM, join this Facebook members only group PlayMore: Education Inspiration that focuses on education and the arts, founded by my long-time friend Elizabeth Rubenstein. It brings daily inspiration to my feed.

Art from Every Angle

The Middle School Art, Drama and Music departments came together on May 16 to showcase student talent through an end-of-year exhibition, concert and theater performance.  Art students channeled their creative energies into designing ceramic plates – molded in the likeness of influential female figures, conceptualizing and building “dwelling” spaces, or reworking the concepts of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ in the works of noted painters, sculptors or other artistic visionaries.

The sixth grade art students studied Judy Chicago’s 1979 groundbreaking installation, The Dinner Party. The girls then chose their own heroine–either an influential female figure in history or popular culture, or a  personal role model.  Each student created a complete table setting of ceramic plates, cups, and cutlery, and a sewn placemat.  Chosen figures included Cleopatra, Marie Curie, Ruth Wakefield and J. K. Rowling.
 
Also on display was a “Dwelling” the seventh graders created from recycled materials. They not only thought about what the word “home” and personal/private space might mean, but they were also given an architectural challenge: only one right angle could be used. These dwellings varied from futuristic, whimsical homes, to rounded homes with satellite rooms, and even a few underground dwellings with tubes to connect the living spaces.

In Grade VIII, each student studied an artist and then recreated their work, with a twist. The class discussed common conceptions of “masculine” and “feminine” and then applied these ideas in a visual sense to modify or pay homage to their selected artist’s work.  Most often the students pushed the work away from the artist’s intent – either feminizing a male artist or masculinizing a female artist.  Students uncovered ideas of “masculinity” and “femininity” and how they translate to the visual appeal of a work of art.  The students explored different mediums and techniques to best express their creative vision.

Click here to view student art projects in our Media Gallery.

  — Janice Wilke, Art Department Head

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grade VI Students: “Keep Calm”

Keep calm. Follow directions. Pace yourself.

These are all fail-safe tips for taking an exam – just ask Baldwin’s sixth graders.  Following an exam prep session on Monday with Baldwin Learning Facilitator Cecily Selling, the students were assigned with the task of either designing a poster or performing a skit to highlight what they had learned.

The girls created a list of valuable recommendations come crunch time, which included the use of notecards as a study tool, and paying extra attention on exam review days.  They also brainstormed helpful tips to help get ‘in the zone’ on exam day, which included a good night’s sleep, eating a healthy breakfast, and thinking positive.

 

 

Grade VI Students: "Keep Calm"

Keep calm. Follow directions. Pace yourself.

These are all fail-safe tips for taking an exam – just ask Baldwin’s sixth graders.  Following an exam prep session on Monday with Baldwin Learning Facilitator Cecily Selling, the students were assigned with the task of either designing a poster or performing a skit to highlight what they had learned.

The girls created a list of valuable recommendations come crunch time, which included the use of notecards as a study tool, and paying extra attention on exam review days.  They also brainstormed helpful tips to help get ‘in the zone’ on exam day, which included a good night’s sleep, eating a healthy breakfast, and thinking positive.

 

 

English Export Bids Farewell to Baldwin

Joanna with her Middle School drama students.

My few weeks at Baldwin are coming to an end, and next week I begin my travels through the rest of the country. I’m excited to be able to visit and explore places I have only read about or seen on TV; New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

My time here at Baldwin has been fantastic. I’ve met so many bright, funny and ambitious girls. It’s great to see how much they enjoy taking drama as part of their curriculum, and it’s fun observing how engaged and energetic they are in their lessons. The students’ classes allow them to think creatively, and I love seeing them apply the skills they’ve acquired in other subjects, such as art, to theater performances. The Grade VIII ‘body’ projects are one such example. They each used pictures, drawings and cut-outs from magazines to portray the events and experiences that have shaped them into the individuals they are today. They then made videos sharing a personal story illustrated on their ‘body.’ The idea of using media in a drama class is a new concept for me. Videotaping myself perform, and then replaying it for a live audience was an unusual, but welcoming experience that I’ll take with me. These video performances will be displayed during the Grade VIII concert on May 18 along with other artistic projects. I think the integration of media and drama is an innovative teaching method, and I only wish I could have used it with my students last year, during my stint in Nepal.

Another highlight of my internship was seeing the Grade VII class perform the play ‘I Want… Doesn’t Get,’ for the Lower School. For this annual Children’s Theater Production, the girls had just over a week to block, learn and perform selected scenes – no easy feat for even the most accomplished of actors! But they worked really hard, staying after school to rehearse scenes, practice staging and memorize their lines. In the end, they succeeded in delivering a magical performance, and I loved being a part of it. The Grade II enrichment class students I teach with Cynthia on Wednesdays loved the performance so much they begged us to do it with them too!

 I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work here at Baldwin, and I would like to thank Drama Teacher Cynthia Angst for making my time here so memorable. She is an inspiring teacher who went out of her way to show me the ropes and make me feel at home during my time here.

Next year I’m going to study at the University of Hull in England and I know that my experiences at Baldwin have prepared me well for the new challenges I’ll face. It’s been interesting to change roles from a student to a teacher – the fresh perspective has helped me realize how tough the profession can be at times, and I respect and admire those who have made it their vocation. 

Teaching and travelling have enabled me to grow in many ways.  Thank you to the Baldwin community for being a part of my journey.  

Click here to read Joanna’s last blog post chronicling her experiences teaching drama in Nepal.

Dramatizing Baldwin

Drama students performing in a short skit entitled "The Crane." Pictured: Anika Iyer, Jessica Zhang, Lauren Fosnocht

It’s that time of year again, and the Middle School drama class’s busiest bees are gearing up for the annual Children’s Theater Production that will be performed for the Lower School on Friday, April 27.

Though the production has traditionally come in the form of a play – with Winnie the Pooh and Peter Rabbit having been performed over the previous two years, the Grade VII and VIII girls decided to set the stage this spring with a show that’s a little more unconventional.  The students involved in the production are currently in the midst of writing a sequence of original scenes, in addition to creating dramatized versions of Aesop’s fables and Shel Silverstein stories that will be performed as short monologues and skits on show day.  The drama students will also design and create their own costumes for each scene.

A retelling of the Grimms fairy tale, "The Golden Goose." Pictured: Anika Iyer, Aquilla Lee, Sydney Atlas

The scenes will be developed around the core themes of selfishness and greed, which lend themselves well in communicating the morals and life lessons that can be learned through reading the familiar children’s fables. The amicable ‘animal’ characters featured in each scene will be key to illustrating human follies.

A scene from Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.” Pictured: Meg Frantz, Alexis Mosley-McLemore

 One of the scenes performed for the Lower School is taken from the inaugural Middle School Play Slam, to be held in partnership with Episcopal Academy and Villa Maria Academy.  Considered to be the focal piece in the production, visiting British drama intern Joanna Storer has cleverly titled it “I Want…” from “I want…doesn’t get,” a British expression mothers use with their kids when they are behaving selfishly.

Stay tuned for more information on both the Children’s Theater Production and the upcoming Play Slam – an event which will bring together aspiring Upper and Middle School playwrights on May 19 for the opportunity to direct, cast and perform original works.

Baldwin Girls Dig Archeology

Simulating an archeological 'dig' during Mini-Week.

Wearing gloves and utilizing shovels, brushes, sifters and other tools, a small group of Baldwin girls are up to their elbows in dirt, meticulously working to unearth the artifacts hidden between each stratified, ‘time-stamped’ layer. Whilst it might seem as though these students are half a world away, excavating an ancient site in Alexandria or Pompeii, they can actually be found kneeling over clear tubs in the comfort of their classroom, simulating an archeological dig as part of Middle School Mini-Week. Though this sprightly bunch have a plethora of courses to choose from, like ‘The Art of Technology,’ ‘Great Women of Stage and Screen’ or ‘Asian Adventure,’ they’ve elected instead to study the specialized techniques archeologists use in examining the secrets of the past in ‘Archeology and the Ancient World,’ with History Teacher Mr. Bannard. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that these girls aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

By the third and final day of Mini-Week, Mr. Bannard’s classroom has been transformed into a dig site for the students, who put into practice the knowledge they gained over the previous two days.  And while the scene may seem quite disorderly, with dirt, tools and dozens of containers holding artifacts scattered about, the entire process is actually methodical. “We thought we were just going to be digging for stuff but it’s actually much more organized,” said Libby Dawejko ’16. “The tubs are split into quadrants so that when we locate artifacts, we can record exactly where we found them, and then record the information in tables we created on our laptops.”

The students also learned about the importance of stratification in identifying how old an object is – in simpler terms, objects found closer to the surface came later than those buried deeper. According to Julia McAleese ’16 the tubs were comprised of “three layers of dirt, with ancient coins as the most dated objects at the bottom, artifacts like pottery shards in the middle, and modern objects like a watch or broken cell phone towards the top.”

Bannard explained, “The coins used in the activity are actually ancient Roman coins dating back nearly 1800 years.” The coins were obtained from Ancient Coins for Education, a non-profit organization geared towards “encouraging students to get involved in Classical history through the use of ancient numismatics.”

The hands-on experience concluded  the two-day lesson on how archeologists work and the underlying principles that relate to preserving layers, recording and accounting for missing or broken artifacts, and drawing conclusions about civilizations of which there is limited knowledge.  With a trip to the Penn Museum of Archeology and Anthropology on day one and a viewing of Indiana Jones followed by a discussion of the themes pertaining to archeology on day two, the students have come full circle. To conclude their study on the subject, they’ll create an archeological report on their findings to share with their classmates. First stop, classroom. Next stop, world.

Click here to view photos from other Mini-Week events in our Media Gallery!

Movin' On Up

On October 5, Grade VIII parents gathered for an introduction to Baldwin’s Upper School.  My thanks to the many parents who attended, listened carefully, and asked good questions. I know this is only the first of many great conversations we’ll have about your daughters and their education at Baldwin. While I can’t repeat everything that was said, here are some highlights:

1.     Upper School is very different from Middle School – it is a community of almost 200 young women who find ways to connect with each other across grades and with adults in the classroom, on the playing field, and every other place that Baldwin activities take place.

2.     The Arts program is a vital, multifaceted operation here, with newly renovated Drama and Chorus spaces in the Residence and more news to come soon about performance spaces on our campus.

3.     Academic excellence remains our #1 priority, which has led us to overhaul our daily schedule, introducing the “Collaborative Classroom” concept to the Upper School with longer class periods on a 2-day cycle. This has vastly improved the daily experience for girls and faculty. Next will come our new curriculum, replacing the AP program with equally demanding high-level courses specifically designed by our faculty for our students and our calendar. This is a move some of our peer schools are also making, and one that colleges and universities understand and endorse.

4.     The physical education and team sports opportunities increase for every girl. The P.E. options are varied and interesting, from CPR to tae kwan do to cardio conditioning. Sports options grow to include a number of new sports, and the commitment required by sports increases in terms of practice time, game time, and, in some cases, off-season and holiday practices as well. Our program is competitive across the board; the sports program has reached new levels of success in the last five years, and has sent a record number of graduates off to play team sports in college as well.

5.     The Upper School offers many opportunities for foreign travel (Tanzania, India, Costa Rica, France, Denmark – and a new Grade 9 trip to be announced). There are also many activities here that connect our girls to the larger world – such as coordinated programs with Haverford, community service – at Overbrook School for the Blind, our Special Olympics team and many more – and club activities like Model U.N.

6.     This is a great place for girls to grow up to be confident, competent, resilient young women. The Upper School is a vibrant, warm, supportive family for everyone in it; our returning graduates tell us, “I miss Baldwin” and “I am so glad I went there.”

7.     Here are four useful links to information on our website:

Upper School Clubs

College Counseling, including links to pages concerning testing, college placement results, etc.

New curricula, including a full discussion of the move away from the AP program and helpful material about the new curricula that will be in place next year

Upper School Sports

– Eric Benke, Upper School Director

Movin’ On Up

On October 5, Grade VIII parents gathered for an introduction to Baldwin’s Upper School.  My thanks to the many parents who attended, listened carefully, and asked good questions. I know this is only the first of many great conversations we’ll have about your daughters and their education at Baldwin. While I can’t repeat everything that was said, here are some highlights:

1.     Upper School is very different from Middle School – it is a community of almost 200 young women who find ways to connect with each other across grades and with adults in the classroom, on the playing field, and every other place that Baldwin activities take place.

2.     The Arts program is a vital, multifaceted operation here, with newly renovated Drama and Chorus spaces in the Residence and more news to come soon about performance spaces on our campus.

3.     Academic excellence remains our #1 priority, which has led us to overhaul our daily schedule, introducing the “Collaborative Classroom” concept to the Upper School with longer class periods on a 2-day cycle. This has vastly improved the daily experience for girls and faculty. Next will come our new curriculum, replacing the AP program with equally demanding high-level courses specifically designed by our faculty for our students and our calendar. This is a move some of our peer schools are also making, and one that colleges and universities understand and endorse.

4.     The physical education and team sports opportunities increase for every girl. The P.E. options are varied and interesting, from CPR to tae kwan do to cardio conditioning. Sports options grow to include a number of new sports, and the commitment required by sports increases in terms of practice time, game time, and, in some cases, off-season and holiday practices as well. Our program is competitive across the board; the sports program has reached new levels of success in the last five years, and has sent a record number of graduates off to play team sports in college as well.

5.     The Upper School offers many opportunities for foreign travel (Tanzania, India, Costa Rica, France, Denmark – and a new Grade 9 trip to be announced). There are also many activities here that connect our girls to the larger world – such as coordinated programs with Haverford, community service – at Overbrook School for the Blind, our Special Olympics team and many more – and club activities like Model U.N.

6.     This is a great place for girls to grow up to be confident, competent, resilient young women. The Upper School is a vibrant, warm, supportive family for everyone in it; our returning graduates tell us, “I miss Baldwin” and “I am so glad I went there.”

7.     Here are four useful links to information on our website:

Upper School Clubs

College Counseling, including links to pages concerning testing, college placement results, etc.

New curricula, including a full discussion of the move away from the AP program and helpful material about the new curricula that will be in place next year

Upper School Sports

– Eric Benke, Upper School Director